Ken Kaneki, who accidentally becomes a ghoul after surviving being eaten by one, is the protagonist of Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul manga and the anime as well as the protagonist of our article. In this article, we have decided to clear up a mystery that has been confusing fans for some time, a mystery that is the result of Ishida’s complex narrative style and the fact that the protagonist changed identities more than once. In this article, we are going to explain the background of these changes, as we are going to reveal how Kaneki lost his memories at the end of Tokyo Ghoul and how he got them back during Tokyo Ghoul:re.
After facing Arima, Kaneki was utterly defeated and Arima pierced both his eyes with his weapons. Kaneki survived thanks to his amazing regenerative skills, but became completely insane and an amnesiac. He was imprisoned and while there, he repeatedly harmed himself and everyone thought that he would die; Arima saved him and gave the amnesiac Kaneki the identity of Haise Sasaki. He regained his memories throughout Tokyo Ghoul:re, returning to his original Kaneki identity during the fight with Arima.
Today’s article is going to be about Kaneki’s evolution as a character in the Tokyo Ghoul series. You’re going to find out how his story evolved in the second part of the narrative, i.e., how he lost his memory and what happened later on in the story, as Kaneki was on the path of becoming Kaneki once more. There are going to be spoilers here, so if you haven’t read or seen Tokyo Ghoul, be careful how you approach it.
How did Kaneki lose his memories in Tokyo Ghoul?
The answer to this question takes us back to the Owl Suppression Operation that took place just before the end of the first part of the manga. Namely, Kaneki had almost died near the end but was seemingly saved by eating Hide, his best friend (it did not happen like that, but we have a whole article dedicated to that story). He then faced Kishō Arima, the CCG Reaper, and his most dangerous foe. Arima defeated Kaneki with ease and the fight ended with a brutal K.O. as Arima pierced both of Kaneki’s eyes with his weapon, reaching his brain. This was never shown in the anime, sadly, probably because it was too brutal, but manga fans will know about it.
Be that as it may, Ken Kaneki was supposed to die from the gravity of the injuries inflicted upon him, but due to his amazing regeneration skills, he managed to survive; Arima was aware of that. Kaneki was then imprisoned in the Cochlea as prisoner #240 and it was there that the true consequences of the battle with Arima could be observed.
Namely, Kaneki did survive the battle but went completely mad. He would scream and cry, he refused to eat anything and he ended up injuring himself to the point of almost dying. He repeatedly tore his eyes out, he tried to scratch through a metal door so hard that he destroyed his fingernails completely, and he ended up shredding his face to pieces. He would always heal, of course, and was repeatedly bandaged to make the healing process faster. On top of that, it became clear that he had gotten amnesia and that he cannot remember anything save for the pain of his own existence.
At one point, Arima visited him and brought him books. This, interestingly enough, attracted Kaneki and he started reading them. The process helped calm him down a lot and after some time, his psychosis disappeared. He started eating, he stopped harming himself, and he could communicate normally. He did remain an amnesiac, which is why Arima told him that they would have to come up with a new identity for him. He picked his two favorite kanji, from the words “coffee” and “world”, and thus became Haise Sasaki, who was soon employed by the CCG as an Investigator.
As it was the case with the majority of Kaneki’s experiences, they were filled with tragedy, pain, and despair. But, Kaneki managed to survive through all of that, overcoming the abysmal tragedies that kept coming at him. In the next section, we are going to tell you how Haise Sasaki, the “new” Kaneki, overcame yet another bout of painful memories to return back to normal and become the hero of the story.
How did Kaneki get his memories back in Tokyo Ghoul?
The character of Haise Sasaki was introduced as a replacement for Ken Kaneki but as it soon turned out, Haise Sasaki was actually Ken Kaneki. Namely, after his clash with Arima, he was left with serious brain damage but alive, as we have described in the previous section. The CCG realized Kaneki’s potential so they used the situation and gave him a new identity, as he had no clue about his former self. His appearance was slightly changed and he had now become a well-respected inspector with the CCG. He also led and mentored the Quinx Squad, especially Kuki Urie, who was sort of an enfant terrible of the group.
Haise Sasaki and Serpent, who was actually Nishiki Nishio, an old friend of Kaneki, got into a fight during the Torso case. Sasaki was ready to be vanquished when the “picture” of Kaneki appeared in front of him and awakened his powers. Sasaki was unaware of the origins of these powers because he still couldn’t recall his previous life. He utilized his ghoul abilities to assault Nishio, and when Nishio’s mask came off, he revealed to Sasaki that he was, in reality, Ken Kaneki, which caused him to crumble as memories started to build up. It was eventually revealed to Kaneki that the CCG was aware of his past but chose to treat him as a human despite his nearly complete breakdown. As long as he behaved like one, that is.
Sasaki now struggles with his subconscious mind on a daily basis and worries that he will always lose control. The CCG carries out its plans for the Rose Extermination and Auction in the interim. Ken Kaneki ultimately reappears when Haise Sasaki regains his memories and accepts his true self during the conflict with the Tsukiyama family. Sasaki/Kaneki assists the CCG despite being once again different and more brutal. They even manage to kill and consume Eto’s ghoul, the One-Eyed Owl; Eto escapes the fight and is subsequently apprehended.
Haise Sasaki’s white hair becomes black, and he acquires the moniker “The Black Reaper” after realizing that he is indeed Ken Kaneki. He is, once more, very different from those around him. He is far more vicious and determined to get rid of the nasty ghouls, but he also doesn’t give a damn about his coworkers. He is determined to get rid of the Aogiri Tree and has a perfect record. Even though he was cold and emotionless, the “new” Sasaki never lost touch with his ghoulish side. As a result, when he learned that Arima was going to hunt down his comrades, he betrayed the CCG and set them free, even though he knew he would undoubtedly perish at Arima’s hands.
The two confront each other in a final face-off at the end of which Arima uses his strongest quinque created from the Owl’s kagune. The Inspector quickly gets the upper hand and dismembers the one-eyed ghoul before it gets back up, hair white again, with its increasingly evolved kagune. Once Ken Kaneki, who has in the meantime recovered his memories during the fight, is regenerated, the fight resumes. At the end of this long and violent fight, Kishō Arima loses his last quinque following a feint by Ken Kaneki. With nothing left to defend himself with, Ken begs Arima to give up the fight.
Arima wants Ken to kill him, but Ken refuses, considering Arima to be his friend, despite of everything that happened between them. Arima then uses the broken Owl to cut his own throat after pleading with him to murder him but he refuses. Kaneki was upset since he thought of Arima as his friend and mentor, and Arima also had a great deal of respect for Kaneki. Arima admitted to Kaneki that he was also a half-ghoul and the One-Eyed King, a title that Kaneki would soon take over, as he was dying.
Arima reaffirmed his confidence in Kaneki’s ability to fulfill his responsibility as the One-Eyed King and bring about peace between the ghouls and the humans. Kaneki underwent another shift as a result of this: he developed into a responsible leader of the ghouls and their human sympathizers. He also became more protective and conscious of his place in the world. Soon after, Kaneki and his crew left the CCG, which was then being run by the vengeful Furuta, and established their own organization, Goat. After defeating a few inspectors, Kaneki experienced another mental collapse as Goat battled the CCG. This time, he absolutely lost it as all of his personalities collided with his already frail head.
Another burst of strength was triggered, but Kaneki lost complete control as a result, once again. As Kaneki was imprisoned inside the Dragon’s shell, having hallucinations and having no control over the Dragon at all, a new form was produced, the Dragon, which was massive and started destroying Tokyo. With Rize’s assistance, Kaneki was able to combat the hallucinations this time, and he rapidly returned to life with his companions awaiting him.
However, the Dragon was still alive and a threat to everyone; in addition, there was the matter of the crazed Furuta. When Kaneki learned that the Scarecrow was actually his best buddy Hide, back in the real world, he gained new strength to battle Furuta and the Dragon. The ghoulish creature was successfully defeated by Kaneki in the final chapters when he defeated Furuta and broke the Dragon’s final defenses. With this, Kaneki ultimately put an end to all internal strife and emerged as the real One-Eyed King, the king of the ghouls and the person who made peace between them and humans.